Definition of circumscribe in English:



  • 1Restrict (something) within limits.

    ‘their movements were strictly monitored and circumscribed’
    • ‘His authority is circumscribed by the advisory jurisdiction of the cabinet.’
    • ‘In the cold war, conventional doctrine held that the fear of mutual destruction would forever circumscribe escalation beyond the conventional battlefield.’
    • ‘New Zealand's democracy is quite unusual in that, rather than attempting to circumscribe popular power in order to prevent ‘mob rule’, it trusts the people.’
    • ‘Apart from forest controls, colonial regulations sharply circumscribed elephant hunting and ivory procurement at the turn of the century.’
    • ‘A political party is a team of individuals circumscribed by very similar parameters.’
    • ‘The agency strictly circumscribes all public utterances by members of the Imperial Family.’
    • ‘Private patriarchy became increasingly circumscribed by laws that undermined male authority within the family.’
    • ‘France will soon be setting new and controversial standards in circumscribing citizens' rights.’
    • ‘His ability to pursue a confrontational policy is severely circumscribed.’
    • ‘He sets the fashions and opinion of taste, dictates the limitations of speech and circumscribes conduct.’
    • ‘The Egyptian system has allowed a carefully circumscribed amount of competition for legislative seats.’
    • ‘If one assigns to the authorities the power to imprison or even to kill people, one must restrict and clearly circumscribe this power.’
    • ‘They see risks but are not convinced that the risks justify circumscribing popular control by overtly undemocratic means.’
    • ‘The practice is severely circumscribed and tightly regulated.’
    • ‘Conversations about race in this country are circumscribed enough as it is, so I'm very uneasy with suggesting further constraints.’
    • ‘From the earliest days of the new state there were efforts to circumscribe local authority powers.’
    • ‘Such delineation serves a controlling function, circumscribing the legal role women may play.’
    • ‘Both these bills use the pretext of real traumas to circumscribe freedom of opinion.’
    • ‘It was a period when French cinema was strictly circumscribed by the German occupiers and consisted largely of boulevard comedies.’
    • ‘Our civilian justice system has taken the view that the police should be carefully circumscribed in their ability to question suspects.’
    restrict, limit, impose limits on, set limits on, keep within bounds, delimit, curb, confine, bound, restrain
    View synonyms
  • 2Geometry
    Draw (a figure) around another, touching it at points but not cutting it.

    Compare with inscribe
    • ‘This he obtained by circumscribing and inscribing a circle with regular polygons having 96 sides.’
    • ‘The same circle circumscribes both the pentagon of the dodecahedron.’


Late Middle English: from Latin circumscribere, from circum ‘around’ + scribere ‘write’.